26 April 2010

Study reveals zoos and aquariums aren’t the bastion of education they claim to be

New research shows that a study conducted by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in 2007 utilized flawed methodology. The AZA study in question claimed to represent the first direct evidence that visits to zoos and aquariums promote positive attitude change towards animals and increase levels of interest in education and conservation.

“Despite the widespread acceptance of Falk et al.’s study by the zoo and aquarium community, we have shown that numerous methodological weaknesses render their findings difficult or even impossible to interpret. More important, their claims—extensively disseminated on zoo and aquarium Web sites—greatly outstrip their methodologically limited findings,” stated Lori Marino, the lead author of the new study and senior lecturer in the Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology Department of Emory University. “We therefore urge zoos and aquariums to cease citing this study in their promotional materials as evidence that visitors’ attitudes are changed for the better, as this conclusion is unwarranted and potentially misleading to consumers.”

The findings of the new study entitled “Do Zoos and Aquariums Promote Attitude Change in Visitors?A Critical Evaluation of the American Zoo and Aquarium Study” did not escape the watchful eyes of animal rights organizations like that of California-based In Defense of Animals (IDA).

“As the public becomes more aware of animal welfare issues, zoos and aquariums are desperately trying to justify holding animals for public display, especially those in extremely inappropriate conditions,” says Catherine Doyle, IDA’s elephant campaign director. “This important study debunks the myth that displaying wild animals in unnatural and inadequate exhibits educates the public and promotes conservation.”

The study in its entirety can be accessed here.

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